Camino Verde and Floracopeia’s Moena Oil from Peru

Floracopeia is delighted to support the non-profit organization Camino Verde as one of our Eco-Projects. Founded in 2006 by Robin Van Loon, Camino Verde is a grassroots reforestation organization based on the Tambopata River in the Peruvian Amazon region of Madre de Dios. This region of Peru is roughly the size of South Carolina and is often considered the largest remaining region of relatively intact tropical forest left in the world. The Tambopata rainforest is one of the earth's most biodiverse places.

The region's historical isolation is now being threatened by the Interoceanic Highway which crosses Peru and Brazil, spanning South America coast to coast. Unprecedented rates of deforestation and population growth have snowballed in the past ten years. Camino Verde grew out of the need for more ecologically sound, long-term solutions that could provide economic support to the local people.

After ten years of planting trees in the Peruvian Amazon, the result is Camino Verde's Living Seed Bank, home to over 300 species of Amazonian trees as a source of seed for future planting efforts. The over 15,000 trees that make up the reforestation center are planted in agro-forestry systems (tree-based agriculture) that demonstrate tangibly how planting trees can be economically viable for small farmers.

A key to the success of agro-forestry systems is the production of non-timber forest products, the term for products derived from trees without killing them. Fruits, medicines, crafts materials and culturally significant species all provide possible economic incentive for tree planting. The high level of botanical diversity imitates natural forests and also provides resiliency-- if one crop fails, other crops compliment a farmer's income. Cacao grows alongside açaí, alongside cat's claw, alongside rosewood and mahogany and brazil nut.

One of the most exciting non-timber products with strong economic potential that Camino Verde has found is essential oils. A surprising number of Amazonian hardwoods have striking aromas, as their aromatic compounds can help make wood durable by deterring termite attack or rot. Many Amazonian tree resins are known for their powerful medicinal properties as well. This is what inspired the organization to grow Moena Alcanforada, the first essential oil they are producing.

Camino Verde has worked with 20 families in three communities on the Tambopata River and one community in Ampiyacu, Loreto, planting over 5,000 trees on small farmers' land. They have plans to increase their outreach, as well as number of trees planted to get thousands more trees planted on the land of small farmers.

About 1000 of these trees will be Moena Alcanforada. This tree is a close botanical relative of the highly endangered Rosewood, another Amazonian tree that is the source of a famous essential oil widely used in perfumery. The name Moena Alcanforada refers to the camphor-like scent and therapeutic properties of this tree, identified botanically as Endlicheria metallica.

In 2010 Camino Verde planted 500 trees of Moena Alcanforada, which could be translated as "camphorated moena." In 2013 the trees were big enough to start distilling. Only the lateral branches and leaves are used, which are pruned to benefit the trees’ growth and health. We believe that this project is the largest reforestation of this species in the world, and Camino Verde is the only organization in the world distilling this species. Camino Verde plans to plant thousands more of these trees on partner farmers' land, and to provide the growers with distillation equipment as a source of livelihood within a few years.

In traditional Amazonian medicine, the tree is regarded as having cooling properties, and used to reduce inflammation, especially associated with fever and heat such as arthritic conditions.

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